Residents take action to improve their central Athens neighborhood
Most people know it as Karamanlaki Square, but the formal name of this spot between Amerikis and Koliatsou squares in the Athenian neighborhood of Kato Patissia is Kalliga Square, named after the once-mighty landowner Pavlos Kalligas.
What makes Kalliga Square stand out in this once prosperous and now degraded part of the Greek capital is that in the 1930s it was the subject of a town-planning experiment that mandated a particular style for all new constructions as well as a front courtyard, transforming the square and its surrounding streets into an oasis.
It doesn’t take an architectural historian to see that Kalliga Square still contains some of the last vestiges of one of Athens’s finest moments, though that is not to say it has not gone the way of its neighbors, as the entire area has been experiencing social decline since the 1970s, something which has been exacerbated by the current economic crisis.
However, in response to the gradual drop in property prices as a result of the degradation, a number of locals formed a group last September, the Pavlos Kalligas Square Residents Association, with the aim of defending their neighborhood. Their primary concern was safety, as they had witnessed a rise in crime in certain parts of the area, to which the state and the City of Athens appeared unable to respond effectively.
Parts of the area have become no-go zones for residents, especially at night, while the past few years have also seen a spike in muggings, burglaries, illegal street trade and a rising number of undocumented immigrants taking up residence in abandoned buildings or low-rent accommodation.
The association, however, does not lay all the blame for the situation at the feet of state, lamenting instead the indifference of many locals toward the growing problems.
The first order of business for the association was to send an open letter to the prime minister outlining the problems of Kalliga Square and also to meet with Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis when he assumed office in January. Meanwhile, it has also reached out to private companies and groups for help, such as for securing street lighting and for organizing cultural and community events.
The next action will be a street party in the square on Wednesday, June 1.
“We have no party affiliations, no dogma or ideology, and among the many different viewpoints that each of us brings to the table, there is one that unites us: the need for a safe and dignified way of life for everyone,” the association said in a statement.
The Pavlos Kalligas Square Residents Association is a grassroots initiative formed last September to help curb the steady decline of the central Athenian neighborhood.